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THE THIN BLUE LINE

USA, 1988 (MIFF 1989)

Director: Errol Morris

The Thin Blue Line is both the recreation of the brutal murder of a Dallas policeman in 1976, and a passionate argument for the case of a man wrongly accused of the murder. While making an uncompleted film on notorious psychiatrist Dr James Grigson, director Errol Morris stumbled onto the bizarre case of Randall Dale Adams, who had been sentenced to death for the brutal slaying of Dallas police officer Robert Wood Adams insisted he was innocent, prompting Morris to begin his own investigations. His attention was immediately drawn to the 16-year-old David Harris, on whose evidence Adams was charged and convicted. In time, Morris not only extracted a confession from Harris indicating that he committed the murder, but uncovered fundamental flaws in key testimonies that lead to Adams's conviction Adams's sentence has since been commuted to life imprisonment and the case for his acquittal continues to this day Harris, however, is now on death row as a result of a murder he committed in the meantime.

Morris stresses that his film doesn't just recount a murder investigation, it is one, he says. He doesn't hide from his conviction that a serious miscarriage of justice has taken place and that Adams has been wrongly accused, nor does he shy away from making something of a caricature of 'justice down South'. Painstakingly, his film reconstructs every stage of the convoluted plot, employing numerous formal devices, such as oddly-framed compositions, expresstonistlc lighting, mesmeric editing, and a haunting music score by Philip Glass to emphasise his viewpoint. In this way, his ersatz documentary has more in common with film noir, and crime fiction classics such as The Wrong Man, Detour, Out Of The Past and D. O. A . But, as critic J. Hoberman writes, 'An Errol Moms film bears as much resemblance to an ordinary documentary as a Dali watch does to a Timex '

Errol Moms is the man responsible for Werner Herzog eating his shoe, in Les Blank's memorable short. His earlier films Gates of Heaven and Vernon, Florida have been shown at previous MFFs

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